Last night, the Government announced that the country will move back to Alert Level 2, and Auckland to Alert Level 3 from midday today until at least midnight on Friday. With a short time to prepare for these changes and put in place necessary measures, we have set out below the key takeaways for employers from last night’s announcement.
Auckland: Alert Level 3
Employers in Auckland should pull out their Alert Level 3 plans, check that they are still fit for purpose and make them available again to staff. The key rules for employers in Auckland at Level 3 are:
- People must work from home “if possible”.
- Workplaces can only open if they are providing an essential service or:
- Workers cannot work from home; and
- Workplaces are operating safely; and
- Customers are not allowed on premises; and
- Businesses can trade without physical contact with customers.
- This means bars and restaurants must close (but can run a takeaway service with no customer contact) and retail, hairdressers, beauty salons and gyms must all close.
- Workplaces that continue operating at Level 3 must have their health and safety obligations front of mind. This means reintroducing rigorous hygiene measures, regular cleaning of common areas, physical distancing of at least two metres or one metre in controlled environments, contact tracing for all visitors, appropriate use of PPE, encouraging “high-risk” people to stay at home where possible, and sending people home who have cold or flu symptoms. Government guidance is that masks are compulsory when physical distancing is not possible at work. A legal notice is also likely to be issued today making masks compulsory when out and about in public.
- Employers must think about whether it is safe to have everyone at work. If only a proportion of the workplace can return safely, employers will need to consider how to select who will not work.
Outside Auckland: Alert Level 2
The key rules for employers outside Auckland at Level 2 are:
- Businesses can operate and remain open to the public if they can do so safely, following public health guidance including distancing requirements and record-keeping for contact tracing. Alternative ways of working (including enabling flexible hours and working from home) are to be encouraged where possible.
- Businesses must talk with their workers to identify and manage risks. Alert Level 3 safety plans are a good reference point here, but all employers should consider what has changed since the last time we were at Level 3, and how any new risks can be managed.
- Businesses must ask everyone (workers and customers) with cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from their premises.
- Workers at, and clients/customers visiting, a business must remain one metre away from each other, except for customers of retail businesses where two metre distancing is required.
- Businesses (except retail) must keep contact tracing records of anyone who enters the workplace or uses its services (e.g. workers and clients/customers). Businesses should bear in mind Privacy Act obligations when collecting information for contact-tracing records.
If Ministry of Health guidance requires a worker to self-isolate within or outside Auckland, applications can still be made for Covid-19 leave payments. However payment is not immediate, so sick leave or annual holiday (taken by agreement) may need to be used in the meantime.
We encourage you to contact us if you are unsure about how to apply this guidance to your workplace.